Rachel Goenka’s inspirational interview with TCM: “Success to me goes beyond the obvious financial benchmarks” says Rachel.
With many ups and downs, India has experienced rapid growth and development in the past years in many spheres. The only gender equity is not one of them. This is deplorable considering the important role played by women in the socio-economic growth of the country. The Indian development model has yet to fully incorporate the important role played by women for propelling the socio-economic growth of the country. Women in the present day have been recognized as an indivisible part of the global struggle for a stable economy. Same is the case in India where women have recently become the symbol of change.
An increasing number of women are making their presence felt in India’s vibrant economy as entrepreneurs and professionals. Studies indicate that many women make significant contributions to their family’s businesses in the form of unpaid labor, but their efforts are rarely recognized. Rachel Goenka, Founder & CEO of The Chocolate Spoon Company, is one of the names in the industry who has impressed people by her dedication and talent. Rachel has been working for the company, which owns and operates fourteen restaurants and bakeries including the multi award winning restaurant The Sassy Spoon (Mumbai & Pune), House of Mandarin (Mumbai), Baraza Bars & Bites (Pune), Mandarin & Mircchi (Pune) and Sassy Teaspoon, a chain of bakeries & patisseries across Mumbai & Pune.
The CEO MAGAZINE, in an exclusive interview with Rachel Goenka
What was your dream as a business lady?
I had always wanted to be independent from our family business in the media and was very keen on establishing myself as a businesswoman in my own right. The food industry was something that I have always had a keen passion for and I decided to turn that passion into a career. I started The Chocolate Spoon Company in 2012 with one restaurant, The Sassy Spoon. Today we have grown that to 14 restaurants and patisseries across Mumbai and Pune and have a robust pipeline of new properties in the works.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
I’d have to say the approach we’ve been taking to expanding the brands have been a massive accomplishment. After the formative years of getting our basics right and strengthening our foundations, we have been expanding exponentially. In the last 12 months we grew from 3 outlets to 14 outlets as well as 2 central kitchens.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
It has been a very steep learning curve. The restaurants themselves have an unbelievable number of moving parts. There were multiple significant challenges over the past few months which have directly affected business – demonetization, GST, the highway ban etc. There are also perennial legislative challenges like regulations, licensing, permits. Overall, it’s been an extremely demanding but very rewarding journey.
What are your ideals?
My team & I believe in keeping it simple yet having lots of fun with a balance between great food, impeccable service, stunning interiors and lots of SASS of course! We strongly believe in being true to ourselves and our customers, as well as having fun while pursuing our passion. We experiment with flavors and texture and throw in our signature twists that set us apart from everyone else.
How many hours a day you work on an average?
This is a Company that never sleeps! Operationally speaking, we have restaurants that are open for breakfast from 8:00 am and bars that close post mid-night. The central kitchens operate throughout the night and start dispatching products from 5:00 am.
What are some tough decisions you’ve had to make?
We strive to keep our offering innovative by foraying into new concepts and cuisines. More importantly, we are nimble and are not afraid to make tough decisions. For example, we recently replaced The Sassy Spoon Bandra with the House of Mandarin as we saw a huge gap in Bandra for authentic Chinese fare. It was a tough decision since Brand Sassy is my baby but, given that we have 2 other outlets, we took the call to switch over to a premium Chinese restaurant.
What stimulated your ideas to bring significant changes in an existing business/at work place?
Dining trends are being shaped by the advances in food tech space, and our aim is to continue our growth trajectory by innovating with food and concepts and adapting to the new environment we find ourselves in. We have been exploring what we think are untapped verticals and are looking forward to experimenting with new concepts.
What effective strategies you have implemented/initiatives you have taken to achieve success?
The F&B industry is one of the most competitive out there as the barriers to entry are virtually non-existent. Anyone with a little bit of capital can start a restaurant, but the challenge is to remain in the industry and grow your brands. Trends and tastes shift so quickly that eateries and bars are closing down as quickly as they open up. Our fundamental goal is to create a fun space with great food that keeps people coming back.
How do you define success? What is your take on the ways to achieve long term success?
Success to me goes beyond the obvious financial benchmarks. It is the ability to create a brand with staying power. The Sassy Spoon is over 5 years old currently, which to me is a testament to our approach to our customers and our approach to our food. We have been able to build on this success and have forayed into different verticals and new markets.
Please tell us about your future plans
The past 12 months has seen the Company grow exponentially. We have experimented with and created brands are now imminently scalable. Though we have 3 more restaurants in the pipeline for this year as well as more patisseries, we are also focusing on ancillary revenue from beyond the restaurants. We have made significant inroads into the corporate and outdoor catering verticals and our central kitchens handle a large volume of private label business.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Probably my Husband! He makes me feel like I’m procrastinating all the time because he is 100 steps ahead of most people. I’ve never met a bigger workaholic than him!
Whom do you attribute your success to?
My Father has been my biggest backer. His input is invaluable to the growth of the Company. However, I wouldn’t be able to achieve anything without my entire team at The Chocolate Spoon Company. When we first started, we were 4 people working out of an office kitchen to do food trials. Today that team has expanded to almost over 300 people. I wouldn’t have been able to take this company to where it is today without their commitment and hard work.
Do you think your personal life is affected by your professional life? How?
Absolutely! If you don’t live and breathe your passions, you could end up taking your eye off the ball. Dinner time conversations typically revolve around the business, but we do switch off once a week to refocus and recharge. Currently however our whole world revolves around our son who was born in January.
What do you think is the biggest challenge to female leadership?
I think we’re living in a more enlightened age where, by and large, the concept of female leadership has made tremendous strides. However, there’s still a long way to go till we see a larger representation of women at the upper echelons of management. On a more personal level though, being a new mom has opened up my eyes to the challenges women face to juggle domestic and professional responsibilities. While balancing this is a personal choice for every woman, I for one have a renewed respect for the working moms out there.